Standing 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Nick Marshall's athleticism was coveted by the University of Georgia. However, despite being a dominant quarterback in high school and owning the state record of 103 career touchdown passes from 2007-10, the Georgia native moved to defensive back while current starting quarterback Aaron Murray continued to shine.
Marshall appeared in 13 games; his career was promising until he was dismissed from the team in February 2012 for a violation of team rules. Marshall and teammate Chris Sanders were connected to an incident involving the theft of money.
"It's a privilege to play college football and to be a part of this team and university," Georgia coach Mark Richt said in a statement. "Along with that privilege comes certain responsibilities; mistakes were made, and part of our job is helping them learn from mistakes."
Marshall then arrived at Garden City Junior College in Kansas where he quickly won over the coaching staff with his demeanor and hard work. He posted video game numbers, passing and running for more than 4,000 combined yards. He was back in action, and, as fate would have it, Auburn was searching for a quarterback.
Marshall arrived in Auburn in July and performed well in training camp. He beat out freshman Jeremy Johnson in an offseason quarterback battle and appeared to be the perfect fit to new head coach Gus Malzahn's read-option running attack.
“What means the most is coach Malzahn and coach [Rhett] Lashlee give me the second chance to come back into the SEC to play football,” Marshall said a news conference at the Newport Beach Marriott. “[The Georgia incident] is something I try not to think about. It’s just something I put behind me and thank the man above that I got a second chance to play college football.”
Marshall was slow at first. His mediocre statistics weren't much to marvel at. However, after missing the Western Carolina game with an injury, the new Tiger came out gunning days later in a victory over former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.
Months later, Marshall and Auburn sat at the top of the Southeastern Conference following last-second victories over Georgia, Alabama and finally a back-and-forth win over Missouri in the SEC title game. The turnaround from last year's 0-8 dismal conference record was complete.
Despite starting the year slow, the first-year Auburn quarterback was being compared to former Auburn Heisman-winning quarterback Cam Newton and had only thrown one interception in his last eight games.
Now, on the eve of the BCS National Championship Game, Marshall is in a position to deliver Auburn what Newton did in 2010: a national title, and he's focused and ready to redeem himself from the negative reputation as a freshman that some still hold against him.
"I saw that his teammates were taking pictures of everything and posting them on Facebook and Instagram," Shalena Cliett, Marshall's mother, told AL.com during their visit to Pasadena, Calif. in preparation for the title game. "I said, 'Nick, why are you not taking pictures? He says, 'Mom, I came out here for one reason and one reason only, and that's to bring home the crystal."
Marshall and Auburn will play No. 1 Florida State tomorrow night in the Rose Bowl. The highest pedestal in college football awaits.
But for this quarterback, he's thankful he got a second chance to show what he is really about, and that is greater than any hardware for winning a game.